November 2013 Meeting with Paul Tippell
At our November meeting, Paul Tippell, convenor of TRAKNAT (Twickenham, Richmond and Kingston Network against the Arms Trade) updated us on the work which TRAKNAT has undertaken in campaigning against UK arms exports.
Recently, this focused especially on the fact that Vince Cable's BIS department (for Business, Innovation and Skills) sponsors the world's largest annual arms fair, the DSEi (Defence & Security Equipment International). This exists so that arms buyers and sellers can come together, network and make deals, and it takes place every two years in London's Docklands. Of particular concern this year was the inclusion of Rosoboron export, the Russian arms exporter which supplies 80% of the weapons bought by Assad for use in Syria, including fighter aircraft, tanks and ammunition.
In order to draw attention to this, TRAKNAT members held vigils outside Vince Cable's office. They also wrote letters to Dr Cable and met with him to discuss their concerns about the need to improve transparency in the licensing of arms exports and criteria for granting licences to dealers who supply arms to developing countries.
Paul explained that a major concern is the fact that Vince Cable also has joint responsibility for the UK Trade and Industry Defence and Security Organisation (UKTIDSO), which vigorously promotes arms sales to both developing countries with large populations of extremely poor people and to others where there are recognised human rights concerns. For example, India spends 20% of government revenue on the military but only 4% on health, meanwhile importing 15% of UK arms exports. Another example is Saudi Arabia, recognised by the Foreign Office as 'a country of human rights concern, yet a priority market for Dr Cable's department which sanctions sales to it of over 4 billion pounds.
We heard that in 2012, Vince Cable stated in Parliament that he would take measures to increase transparency in arms export licensing relating to open licences (licences which are used to supply unlimited quantities of weapons to some of the most repressive regimes in the world). He also confirmed this in a letter to TRAKNAT.
However, a year later he reneged on this undertaking and subsequently confirmed in writing to TRAKNAT that he is not in fact prepared to introduce the greater transparency which was promised.
Paul concluded that, since coming to office, Vince Cable has made no attempt to restrict arms exports to human rights abusers or to countries which have high populations of very poor people and that we should be extremely angry about this.
He urged us to write or email Vince Cable, expressing our disapproval and disappointment over his misleading of Parliament and support for the arms trade.
For more information about TRAKNAT, go to: traknat.org.uk